What Is the Number One Trait That Makes For Employee Satisfaction?

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

With an ever-improving economy, work culture and employee satisfaction have surpassed compensation as a priority for top talent. Here’s why.

We now have proof: when the economy gets better, employees become less interested in what they are being paid.

According to a recent study released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employees grow more interested in the overall culture of an organization—how it treats its workers and its general approach to managing them—as economic conditions improve.

While wages are still important to members of the workforce, we now know that in times of plenty, employees prioritize other factors just as highly. HR professionals in 2015 should capitalize on this trend if they want to find and keep top talent.

Key Areas of Emloyee Satisfaction

The Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, released by the SHRM in April, identified the five most important areas of job satisfaction in the following order: 

  1. Respectful treatment of employees at all levels (72 percent listed this as “very important”—far and away the most important factor)
  2. Trust between workers and senior management (64 percent)
  3. Overall benefits (63 percent)
  4. Compensation/pay (61 percent)
  5. Job security (59 percent)

Note that wages, compensation and job security are now—compared to previous years—below benefits, employee treatment and trust. Now that the economy is slowly improving, and organizations and workers are not stretched so thin, people can start thinking about life beyond getting the bills paid and living paycheck to paycheck. 

Interestingly, this was the first year the concepts of “respectful treatment” and “trust between employees and management” were included in the survey. Their inclusion and the results of the survey seem to indicate that inter-personal relationships are taking a larger role in the success of the workplace.

How Employers Are Meeting Expectations

So how are employers doing? Not so great. The survey’s findings indicate employers might have a long way to go in meeting the expectations of their workforce.

Here’s how they scored in the areas identified as most important by their employees:

  1. Respectful treatment of employees at all levels (33 percent of respondents said they were currently “very satisfied” with their organization’s efforts in this area)
  2. Job security (32 percent)
  3. Trust between employees and senior management (28 percent)
  4. Overall benefits (27 percent)
  5. Compensation/pay (24 percent)

Related Article: How to Change Your Company Culture Mid-Stream

While employee satisfaction tended to trend low across the board, the takeaway here is that employers simply are not working hard enough to build strong relationships with their workers. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at how your company can increase overall employee satisfaction in each of these areas.

Employee Handshake

1. Respectful Treatment of Employees

Now that the economy is improving, management teams may find themselves less stressed about profits and productivity. Consequently, this is an excellent time to reach out to employees, find common ground with each of them and earnestly attempt to see their points of view.

Most importantly, managers should show respect for their employees’ perspectives. In the past, leaders could ignore certain problems raised by workers and cite hiring freezes for why these problems could not be addressed by hiring more help. Those excuses will probably not fly in a recovering economy, especially since better and more enticing job openings might become more prevalent elsewhere.

2. Trust Between Employees and Senior Management

Working conditions become adverse when senior managers do not trust employees. In the past, these issues could be glossed over. Now, upper management has no choice but to trust its staff, because to do otherwise will incite the suspicions of employees. This can lead to lower morale and a decrease in productivity.

If your staff doesn’t trust its management team, employees might wind up withholding valuable market and sales information in an effort to gain leverage over what they perceive to be a hostile working environment.

Employers should make a point to offer more team building exercises focused around trust. Managers should try building up the confidence of their team members by giving them greater autonomy. Trust will follow with each new success.

 Employee Benefits

3. Overall Benefits

As the economic environment improves, expect benefits to play a larger role in both hiring and retaining top talent. Remember, economic factors will empower competitors to flash good salaries at talent to lure them away from your business.

Offering unique benefits, such as flextime, recognition and rewards could give your company the upper hand as the recovery continues.

Related Article: Awesome Employee Perks You've Never Heard Of

4. Job Security

From 2008 to 2011, job security was rated the number one indicator for job satisfaction. Now, it has dropped in importance, which means companies can lean on better benefits and opportunities for greater career advancement as a way to electrify the workforce. The fact that job security still made the top five, however, should serve as a reminder that it shouldn’t be ignored.

Keep the lines of communication open with staff members to reassure them that you value their contributions to the organization. Not only will it boost their confidence and make them feel more secure about their position, it will also foster a more trusting workplace environment.

Employee Paycheck

5. Compensation/Pay

Coming out of a major recession, it’s no surprise that compensation and pay scored so low among actual employee satisfaction. And while it ranked lower in relative importance than it did in previous years, wages and compensation remain very important factors in recruitment and retention.

Now that the economy is improving, you might want to try injecting some variable pay options into your compensation plans. Are you offering bonuses, commissions or other rewards to impress new help and encourage existing staff?

Understanding the psychology of your workforce is critical, and it helps to know that a steady paycheck is no longer the determining factor for why employees gravitate to certain companies. Use this information to improve your management techniques and you’ll reap the rewards of a more engaged, enthusiastic and satisfied staff.

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